Day 1: Friday 4 January
Invercargill, Bluff and southward bound
Noon position at Bluff: 46o35.507’S; 168o20.088’E
Welcome. You will notice that for the start of each daily entry, the position of the ship at Noon is given. This will help people who may wish to compile a map for their diary, print album or digital photo record.
At long last our expedition, with 49 of us all keen to visit the magnificent New Zealand Subantarctic Islands, is about to get underway. Some of us had arrived a day early and met fellow travellers in the southern city of Invercargill located on the lush, fertile plains of Southland. Here we were comfortably cared for in the Kelvin Hotel. The weather yesterday in Invercargill was strong of westerly conditions and rain in the evening and today, we had low cloud, steady rain and at 9 a.m. a temperature of 14oC.
Most of the expedition team from the previous voyage was accommodated at the Port of Bluff 30km from the city. They all have a wide range of experience which has seen them working in many parts of the world.
We were met at the Kelvin and our luggage was put in a truck then conveyed to the ship. We also met Nathan Russ, who first visited the Ross Sea Antarctica when eight or nine years old, became Head Chef when 18, and later the company Operations Manager.
On arriving a special welcome was given to us by Rachael our Cruise Director and other staff, and the two recipients of the True Young Explorer programme; Briar Alexander, a horticulture apprentice from Dunedin Botanical Garden and Mithuna Sothieson, a biodiversity ranger with the Department of Conservation at Opotiki. The aim of this programme which has been operating a few years is to Explore, Inspire and Advocate, with further details given in our cabin materials.
By 3p.m. we had settled in our cabins with a comfortable temperature of 20oC, familiarised ourselves with the ship and enjoyed in the Bar/Library, coffee, tea, juice, freshly baked muffins and scones. By mid-afternoon the day had brightened and rain eased. Of interest were several bird nests on the corrugated iron roof of a building by the starboard side, with one nest containing two well developed Black back (kelp) Gulls, which also nested here last year.
A few details on the ship will be of interest. The 72m (236ft) Spirit of Enderby also known as Professor Khromov, is one of seven ships of the same class built in Turki, Finland, as research vessels. Our ship was constructed in 1984 and is listed on the Russian Register as KM ice class. The ship has a bunker capacity of 320 tons for the two 1560 HP (1147kWt) engines achieving 12 knots through a gearbox and single propeller and while cruising comfortably manages on one engine 10 knots.
Originally built for oceanographic work, the Spirit of Enderby is owned by the Russian Federation Far Eastern Hydro Meteorological Research Institute in Vladivostok where it is Registered No. 179. It has 22 Russian crew.
On Main Deck (Level 3) near the two dining rooms, is a portrait of Y.M. Shokalskiy, “a highly respected academic CCCP 1856-1940, [who] lived a long and amazing life.” He was associated with several prominent scientists including the great Arctic explorer Fritjof Nansen and Shokalskiy’s primary interests were in the fields of geography, oceanography and cartography. He compiled works titled “Oceanography”, was a respected President of the [Russian] Geographical Society and with a learned expression, observes us as we commute along the level three passage.
The expedition is underway
Our programme began with a mandatory briefing at 3:30 p.m. in the lecture room when Lisle introduced himself and the other expedition team members. Wind maps were shown and we were advised that to take advantage of calm conditions, we would head south with two days to Campbell Island, where we will spend two days before working our way north, via Auckland Islands and The Snares. Finally Expedition Leader Lisle, with assistance from Dan, gave a demonstration of the SOLAS life vest that will be used for the mandatory lifeboat drill. This took place immediately after an announcement from the Captain and an abandon boat signal from the ship’s horn. We reported to our Muster Station, were checked off and entered the confined space of two lifeboats. Previously the engine was briefly started.
At 5:30 p.m. we returned to the lecture room for a short but nevertheless, an important briefing as relates to Zodiacs and travel and followed by the issuing of gumboots to those requiring them. The bar opened at 6:30 p.m. with our first dinner an hour later. The beautifully presented meal with a broccoli soup, choice of lamb rack or salmon for the main and a tasty desert with a large piece of pear was very much enjoyed, as was the excellent service by the stewardesses.
We left on schedule at 8:30 p.m., the pilot launch Takatimu 2 collected the Pilot and we were now on our way over an increasing lumpy sea on entering Foveaux Strait. Many of us viewed the departure and had a good view of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and of the coastline. We were on our way at last, with our course taking us along the east coast of Stewart Island, or Rakiura as the island is known.
Stewart Island is New Zealand’s newest National Park and fortunately has no predatory stoats. It was named for William Stewart in 1909 a crewman on the Pegasus, has a rich flora and birdlife and wonderful geology with granite rocks. The interesting human history includes early Maori, sealers, Norwegian Ross Sea whalers in the 1920s, miners who sought tin ore, saw millers and fishermen.
We had a good view of the Titi/Muttonbird Islands and enjoyed a beautiful sunset with lenses of grey strato-cumulus clouds, interspersed with peach to lemon yellow and splashes of gold. It was a complex sky and the colours were such that it would not be easy for an artist. Much of Stewart Island was a dark Payne’s grey and in places, obscured by cloud. Birds sighted included Shearwaters and a White-capped Albatross. By 10 p.m. most of us had decided to have an early night.
Day 2: Saturday 5 January
Southward bound for Campbell Island
Noon position: 49o28.686’S; 168o 45.284’E
Air temperature: 13oC Water 14oC
Many of us have experienced worst seas and calmer nights in the past and this evening we were forewarned by Lisle, to secure our cabins and when commuting always remember to have one hand for the ship and one for oneself. As the evening moved on, the ship rolled and lurched with an occasional big swell. This morning it was very quiet and the sea was reasonably calm with just an occasional lurch. In contrast to previous expeditions, the decision was made to operate from south to north and we now headed for Campbell Island.
This morning we surfaced to a reasonably calm sea and after an excellent breakfast, which included ubiquitous hash browns, bacon and scrambled egg, along with a continental alternative, we were ready for the day.
David, who has a special interest in the science and technology undertaken by early expeditions, began the lecture program. His first lecture to a good audience was well illustrated and focused on the human history of the sub-Antarctic islands. Ten phases of occupation on the islands included, discovery including by Maori, sealing and whaling, science, pastoral farming, Antarctic expeditions back to 1840 when on their way south or retuning; the secret World War II Cape Expedition when much science was also undertaken in various disciplines, particularly ornithology; adventure tourism and pest eradication recovery.
The second lecture at noon was by Jessie, who became interested in plants when at a young age and studied native Forget-me-nots of which one species is on Campbell Island. This presentation in two parts was well attended. Jessie introduced us to various species we will encounter on Campbell Island with plants recognized by the International Union of Nature Conservation. On Campbell Island there are 150 species compared to mainland New Zealand with ca.1500 species.
What is a mega herb was discussed and special features included having large, broad, ribbed leaves that collect water and sunlight; the boundary layer with hairs that provide warmth and coloured flowers that attract insects and generate heat during the short flowering season. An excellent DOC documentary titled The Battle for Campbell Island Rat Eradication followed.
Following lunch which included a wrap, with pulled pork and a nice salad, many of us had a rest and the scheduled quarantine was postponed until sea conditions eased. Most of us enjoyed a rest or made a visit to the bridge. Today several species of albatross was seen and included Southern Royal, Wanderer and Gibsons. Further species will be seen tomorrow.
By late afternoon skies were clearing and the sea was much calmer. Our chefs again provided an excellent dinner. The Starter was tomato and parmesan tart; for the Main one could have baked John Dory [fish] with lemon mash[ed potato] and buttered beans or roast ribeye with mushroom risotto, crème fraiche and beetroot relish and for the final we enjoyed rice pudding with blueberry compote. It was an excellent meal to round off a restful day.
© J. Prebble
Day 3: Sunday 6 January
Noon position: 52o32.787’S 169o09.567’E
Air temperature: 9oC Water: 11oC
We had a reasonably comfortable night with just occasional lurches from the ship including when about to enter Perseverance Harbour. The sea had white horses from the brisk 32.5 km/hr south-westerly and a temperature of 9oC. However, as we went further up the harbour the surface calmed. It took less than an hour of travel to where the anchor was dropped at 6:40 a.m. off the former meteorological station.
As the sun brightened the slopes with golden tussock and grey volcanic outcrops, scattered strato cumulus clouds with between, areas of pale blue sky, this indicated we should have a fine day. Perfect for what Lisle has in mind for our first day at Campbell Island although we were advised of the need to be prepared for sudden weather changes.
Campbell Island/Motu Ihu puku, is the dissected remnant of a volcano. Basement rocks are schist and are overlain by Cretaceous sandstone, conglomerate and carbonaceous mudstone. In the Palaeozoic era (dating from 2mya) the island was glaciated and today has wonderful botany with an Upper alpine zone, Lower alpine zone and a Sub-alpine zone. This has become home to Southern Royal albatross which also breed at Taiaroa Head Dunedin, Campbell Island Albatross and Snipe, Pipit, Teal and many other species. Post eradication, the island is a haven for wildlife.
Campbell Island was discovered in January 1810, by the Captain Frederick Hasselburgh of the whaling ship Perseverance. He had previously discovered Macquarie Island; named after a Sydney-based company, Campbell and Co. The name of the impressive harbour we entered was taken from the ship.
Sadly, Captain Hasselburgh together with Elizabeth Farr, a young woman born on Norfolk Island, a 12 or 13 year old Sydney boy, George Allwright, and a possibly a further three men, drowned in the harbour when their boat was overturned by a violent wind gust. There are varied accounts in the literature as to how many drowned and the deceased were buried perhaps at the site of a cairn, near the head of Perseverance Harbour.
The island became a seal hunting base and the seals here, were almost totally exterminated. The first sealing boom was however, over by the mid-teens of the 19th Century and the second brief spate of sealing was in the 1820s. John Balleny’s expedition called here in 1838, when on their way to Antarctica in search of new sealing grounds.
In 1874 the French scientific expedition led by Captain J. Jacquemart and many localities were named at this time. The expedition later returned under A. Bouquet de a Gyre to examine the Transit of Venus. A technician M. Juris died and is buried on a small headland at the head of the harbour. Other explorers followed.
In the late 19th Century, the island became a pastoral lease and sheep farming took place, along with a few cattle, until expiry of the lease in 1931; a casualty of the Great Depression. During WW2 a Coastguard station operated and after the war, the facilities were used as a meteorological station until 1958, when a new station was established at Beeman Cove. This became fully automated in 1995, and the Post Office also closed.
The island is now Gazetted as a scenic reserve and with removal of cattle and sheep in the 1970s and 1980s brown rats were exterminated in 1992. The island was declared pest free in 2003 and was the largest rat eradication in the world. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and is administered by the Department of Conservation. Wildlife and flora have recovered considerably since the eradication.
After a hearty breakfast, Lisle had us in the lecture room at 7:45 a.m. when we were briefed on plans for the day. Lisle gave us a very useful introduction to Campbell Island which included reference to blocks being fenced in 1980 and 1990 with the sole purpose being removal of the last sheep. This was followed by quarantine to make sure no seeds or other foreign material would be taken to the island and will be adhered to, before and after each landing.
Those who were fit and interested in the 12-13km walk that takes in Northwest Bay left before 10 a.m. this being our first ride in the Zodiacs which have a powerful 60hp Yamaha engine. Staff members Jessie, Mark and Ed, set out with 18 guests for most of the day. Most of us then left on a Zodiac cruise with four boats, which took in the upper part of Perseverance Harbour.
Soon we were enjoying our first sighting of a Campbell Islands Teal that was swimming as it looked for invertebrates in the kelp amongst rocks. A second teal was seen nearer the former meteorological station huts. This rare bird thought to be extinct, was re-discovered by Rodney Russ on Dent Island. A few birds were captured and removed to New Zealand where they bred and were subsequently transferred after the eradication programme to Campbell Island, where they appear to be doing well.
Other birds included numerous Antarctic Terns, some of which were nesting, Brown Skua, 50+ Kelp Gulls including juveniles, without their black and white plumage, Red-billed Gulls, three Giant Petrels, Southern Royal albatross and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, with the species known for their beautiful synchronized flight.
We had two stops with the first at Tucker Cove where David discussed the site of the former 1909 Tucker farm house. Standing alone on the site of the farm house the Shacklock stove ca 1905, is fast deteriorating and nearby on the beach below, bricks were probably from the homestead chimney. Of interest was chert on the beach that probably originated from limestone nearby and various pieces of metal including a rowlock from a whaler (?) placed on the stove. There were surprisingly few New Zealand (Hooker) Sea Lions present and Lisle suggested they were most likely males.
Camp Cove was our next stop to examine the Sika spruce planted by the eccentric Earl of Ranfurly, Governor General of New Zealand about 1910, who at the same time also collected specimens of birds for the British Museum. We did not spend much time here and continued around the coastline and past the point with the grave of the French expedition engine room technician Juris, and Garden Cove. Last season the ornate iron cross was removed for conservation and has been replaced with a replica. There is good evidence from the French scientific station although this has mostly been covered by tussock and the last inspection of the site was made by archaeologists a few years ago.
Lisle recounted an interesting and rare observation made in Perseverance Harbour last season. A great white shark was observed to take a weaner elephant seal and the remains were cleaned up by a sea lion. Such observations are witnessed by only a few. Soon we were back at the Spirit of Enderby and enjoying an excellent lunch of bacon and egg polenta, before setting out for our walk to Col Lyall.
The afternoon was sunny and ideal weather for our trip to see the Southern Royal Albatrosses. There were no sea lions about the old met service huts but the walk is an easy one and we took our time. Some of the mega herbs were flowering and included Anisotome latifolia, the the large purple daisy Pleurophyllum speciosum, P.criniferum, P.hookeri, and Stilbcarpa polaris, the latter also known as Macquarie Island cabbage and once consumed by sealers.
There were also more green orchids then seen last season. Helen was particularly interested in the native orchids and identified at least three species. Celia however, when lying on the boardwalk photographing an orchid, did not expect to suddenly be confronted with a sea lion that was moving towards her. “Help! Help! There’s a sea lion!” she was heard to call out. Lisle had already shown that by remaining still and not looking the sea lion in the eye, they eventually lose interest.
On their way along the boardwalk, Nicola and Alison saw one and possibly a second Snipe, with a further snipe seen by Rachael.
Before reaching Col Lyall, we had an outstanding close view of a Royal Albatross sitting on its large white egg. The albatross was sleeping with its beak buried in plumage on the back and at one stage, used a foot to scratch below the chin, its beak to scratch under each wing and then “mewed” like a cat followed by “bill clappering”. It was a truly wonderful experience. We kept our distance, obtained photos and quietly moved on.
Rachael met us at the platform before we turned left to continue along the boardwalk and after explaining the need to keep away from a further albatross almost beside the boardwalk, we continued on our way. The skeleton of an adult albatross was near the boardwalk and David mentioned how shipwrecked sailors from the Dundonald (1907) used some of the bones to fashion needles when making clothing from seal skins. On reaching the seating at the end of the boardwalk, we put up with the strong gusting south-west wind and admired the meadow of purple daisies before us.
There was so much to take in and enjoy from the ancient glaciated landscape, to the wonderful botany and even the small Campbell Island Pipets that accompanied us on the boardwalk, or were observed alighting on top of Dracophylum bushes.
The “long walkers” also had an excellent albeit strenuous walk and much of interest was seen. Included were two Campbell Islands Snipe at Tucker Cove, many Southern Royal Albatross. For Briar, the walk along the top of the cliff and the purple mega herb Pleurophyllum, was a highlight and for Mithuna and Ian, it was the albatrosses and mega herbs including a few nice orange Bulbinella rossi in a sheltered spot and still in flower. Lunch was enjoyed on the pebbly beach at Northwest Bay.
Of interest to Celia, were several marine invertebrates, including small purple Nodolittorina snails, living on kelp and rocks near the met station. A further gastropod, a cushion star, large isopod and small decapods were observed and photographed.
The bar was well patronized this evening and many enjoyed the chicken dish or the Thai curry with blue cod.
© J. Prebble © R. Iveson-Brown © J. Prebble
Day 4: Monday 7 January
Campbell Island. Enroute to Auckland Islands
Noon position: 52o32.787’S 169o09.567’E
Air temperature: 8.6oC Water: 10oC
This morning the tussock covered hill slopes were a beautiful golden as the sun rose. Soon the wind was up but this did not deter those who were making the most of our visit to Campbell Island.
Conditions were good and the first group of 8 was away for an ascent of Mt. Honey (569m). A further 12 then left, to see the albatrosses and mega plants at Col Lyall and at 8 a.m, 18 went on a Zodiac cruise about the outer harbour.
Of interest for those in the Zodiacs, was seeing where James Clark Ross’s ship HMS Terror, grounded on a shoal. This has an extensive patch of seaweed, which makes one wonder why the grounding took place. Perhaps soundings and the tide, suggested sufficient water under the keel? Cargo was taken off the ship to enable it to be refloated and after collecting specimens of plants, the expedition left for Antarctica.
The numerous birds seen included were Antarctic Terns, Brown Skua, Campbell Island Shags, gulls, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross on two nests and a Teal feeding amongst kelp. A large flock of foraging Wax-eye also known as Silvereye was observed.
There was also good viewing of ancient glacial cirques (hanging valleys) with ravines formed by water from lakes created by melting ice and rainfall. Plants included ferns, the mega herb Anisotome, the white flowering Hebe elliptica and great clumps of tussock, wafted in the wind. Several sea lions were seen and we marveled at seeing the way they climbed up a slope from the boulder beach.
A person, part of a sea lion tagging team, suddenly appeared amongst some tussocks and was perhaps surprised to see us as we were of him. With the wind getting up, the decision was made to return to the ship and it was not long before all were subjected to a good hail storm as we reached the ship, after our hour on the water.
Those on the Col Lyall walk found the wind so strong that Mark said, people were on their hands and knees and one member of their group was blown off the boardwalk. They had great viewing of albatross and also saw two snipe. Jesse said all the team completed their ascent on Mt. Honey they saw a Snipe, had an encounter with a Brown Skua and found a nice example of Myosotis antarctica. They received the squall with hail, not long after the Zodiac party.
Our visit to Campbell Island had been highly successful with all objectives achieved. The two representatives of the New Zealand Meteorological Service, Fred and Alan, were pleased with their work and had up-dated transmission of data to hourly. Lunch was a little earlier today and taking into account the weather expected over the next 24 hours, the anchor was lifted at 12.30. We then prepared to make our way up the east coast of the island with all going well, our next stop in Carnley Harbour on Auckland Island.
As we headed out of Perseverance Harbour, interesting aspects of the coastline not seen on arrival or during the Zodiac excursion became apparent. Included was a fine exposure of columnar basalt along the south side, caves in basalt lava flows and near the heads on the north side, about 10 New Zealand/Hookers Sea Lions. There were also albatrosses, Cape (Pintado) Petrels and with the wind increasing, shags required much wing movement to make any headway. Our last glimpse down the harbour as we began our turn to port was of a sea with white horses and thick cloud.
We now headed north and well offshore, along the east coast. Numbers of birds were increasing, with numerous shearwaters, diving-petrels and albatrosses which included Southern Royals, Campbell and Grey-headed species. Cossack Rock, a good view into North-east Harbour and the dramatic barren landscape, added to our interest. It was not until we neared the aptly named Bull Rock with waves shooting up one side, that we had probably our best viewing yet of albatross and petrels in flight. The albatrosses were spectacular while further away by using binoculars, we could make out, thousands of Campbell and Grey-headed birds at their colonies.
By now the wind and a confused sea was getting up and occasionally water washed over the Bridge windows. We finally said farewell to Campbell Island about 2:30 p.m. and a few hardy souls hovered about the port end of the Bridge, as they maintained a firm grip on railings. It was not long until Lisle suggested that cabins should be secured, as it was clear conditions would soon be far from comfortable.
The bar opened at 6 p.m. and dinner with a choice of crispy pork or baked salmon, was an hour later, the chefs with assistance of other staff, having done a magnificent job, to ensure the inner man was catered for. Many of any of us now retired for the day.
© J. Prebble © J. Prebble
Day 5: Tuesday 8 January
Noon position: 50o48.719’ S 166o04.643’ E
Air temperature: 9 oC Water: 12oC
At 1 p.m. Lisle said the wind was blowing at 75 knots and at times during the night, the ship rolled and lurched. This morning however, the sea had calmed considerably although there was still a scattering of “grey beards” and a few birds were about. Breakfast today was at 9 a.m.
Many of us visited the Bridge at some time this morning and soon we saw Adams Island coming and going in the murk. Our objective was Carnley Harbour at the southern end of Auckland Island which we entered at Gilroy Head about 10:40 a.m. Scores of Shearwaters were flying or on the water and is sufficiently important to be noted on the Department of Survey and Land Information 1:50 000 Infomap No.260. Other birds were Auckland Island shags and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross.
The landscape was similar to features on Campbell Island as had been previously glaciated and slopes had thick areas of Dracophyllum and Southern Rata which was beginning to flower.
Lisle and David provided commentaries on the PA system and it was interesting to observe the Captain using a tablet on which Carnley Harbour had various points of interest. Quite a change from the days of sailing ships and such is technology of today. We anchored in Tagua Bay and by now the wind had dropped; the sea was calm and the sun out.
We all took part in a further quarantine requirement using vacuum cleaners to check pockets, Velcro strips and footwear. Lunch was available at 1 p.m. and at 1:45 p.m. Lisle held a briefing for a landing at Tagua Bay.
Of interest at Tagua was the site of one of the WW2 Coastwatcher bases of the secret Cape Expedition. We were shuttled ashore and landed on a beach of cobble to boulder-size basalt and other rocks. Small snails were seen in the water although there were also shells from bivalves. Tui, Bellbirds, Tomtit and Fantails were seen and two male grunting sea lions, observed us from a distance.
We climbed onto a terrace with old Southern Rata, Dracophyllum and other trees and saw beautiful purple flowers of a species of Gentian, and five different orchids including green and white, pointed out by Jessie. David spoke a little at the derelict huts and we then went a short distance further up the hill to the lookout hut restored by the Department of Conservation. From here there was a commanding view of the bay and inside was several items of interest which included playing cards, tins of Shinio metal polish, custard powder and a lonely boot.
By 5 p.m. most of us were back on board and enjoying a drink in the bar. Before dinner a de-brief was held by Lisle, Dan and Jesse on the bird life and plants. Nathan also commented on the planned eradication of pigs and cats.
We had a most enjoyable meal with lamb hot pot or John Dory fish for the main and a delightful desert followed. Wally said if he was left at Tagua Bay, he could survive on sea lettuce for one meal and sea lion for another, but he did not say how he would secure the sea lion. Most of us then decided to have an early night as we are likely to have a further day in the field tomorrow.
© J. Prebble © J. Prebble © J. Prebble
Day 6: Wednesday 9 January
Noon position: 50o30.417’S 166o16.708’ E
Air temperature: 12.6oC Water: 10 oC
It was good to have a decent rest last evening and this morning, we arose to find ourselves off Enderby Island. Of interest was the columnar basalt cliff, the nature of vegetation and the long sandy beach at Sandy Bay where we would be put ashore.
After a hearty breakfast, Lisle assembled us in the lecture room for an excellent comprehensive briefing on the day’s activities and the wildlife with Jessie filling in on the islands flora. We then collected our lunch and the Zodiac operation got underway at 9 a.m. with the two main activities being a short walk across the island and a long walk taking in via the east end, about half of the island.
For Fred and Alan from the NZ Meteorological Service, their day involved the installation of a new automatic weather station on top of Enderby Island. This will transmit every 10 minutes, data on temperature, relative humidity, wind direction and strength, but not solar radiation, as this is recorded at the Campbell Island station. The Enderby Island station is powered by gel batteries, along with three solar panels to recharge them.
The day was one of overcast skies and a 30 knot northerly blowing. At 9a.m. the Zodiac shuttle got under way and soon we were all on the rock platform below the huts. We split into two groups with 25 long walkers and three staff setting out first and after a break, a similar number. We sighted our first Yellow-eye Penguins (7) and a pair of New Zealand Falcons.
Only a few of us on the short walk had crossed the island before. However there is always something of interest and the transition from Rata forest to an almost alpine environment was of great interest. We also saw a Yellow-eye Penguin on its nest, about ten widely scattered Southern Royal Albatross with some on the nest and others flying, seven Banded Dotterels, Auckland Islands Pipit and plants included a beautiful Sun orchid, purple and white gentians Gentianells cerina and a ground cover plant, the white coral lichen. Jessie was a great help when it came to identifying plants and showed us the benefit of her knowledge of botany which was supplemented by other botanists that were guests on the ship.
It was blowing hard on the coast and most of the short walkers went a short distance beyond the board walk to view nesting Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. The wind was very strong and it was good just to sit and watch the ripple effect of the tussocks, incoming waves and 28 Auckland Island Shags putting on a great flying display. We wondered why they tended to have one or both legs hanging while in flight. Lisle and Dan thought this may be means of stabilizing them when flying into the wind. Other birds seen included a Northern Giant Petrel and a White-capped Albatross.
After an hour the short walkers decided they had had enough of the wind and we headed back down the boardwalk to the grassy sward above the beach. Here we had our lunch and watched the large “beach master” sea lions keeping younger males away from their harems. There was a large number of this seasons pups which tended to congregate for warmth and perhaps safety, in groups with the females.
Light rain set in about the middle of the day and after lunch Dan took the short walkers for a stroll to a nearby pond. Here 8 Skua were washing and we were lucky to see four Auckland Islands Teal and a further Yellow-eye Penguin. We did a circuit of a low hill at the east end of Sandy Bay then returned to the grassy sward, taking care not to enter the space of a few sea lions.
David pointed out where the archaeological excavation was done and here was found a small section from a clay pipe, bones from birds, a dog canine and part of the jaw with teeth, from a barracuda fish. From here seven were shown the Stella Hut c.1899, the area where the grass “huts” were made by survivors from the Derry Castle and at the site of the farm house from the mid-1840s, part of an iron stove. The occupants of the house certainly had a good view of Sandy Bay and nearby by was a stock yard for sheep and cattle. Peter Watts on board with us is a direct descendant of Helen Cripps who lived at Hardwicke Town at Erebus Cove, Port Ross.
Today all the Southern rata trees, Dracophyllum and other species are regenerated vegetation and on vacating the area, we gave a wide birth to an arrogant-looking giant petrel on a nest beneath a Cassinia bush.
The long walkers had an excellent time. On this occasion, because of the strong wind, they bypassed theDerry Castle grave site and memorial. Of interest at the east end of the island was the extensive flowering Anisotome latifolia. There were also numerous purple and white Gentians. The Rata forest was enjoyed along with the many Stilbocarpa polaris; the Macquarie Island “cabbage” and lunch was eaten here.
Birds were plentiful with at least 10 Yellow-eye Penguins seen, numerous shags, 11 Kakariki (Red-crowned Parakeets), 6 Auckland Islands Snipe and a New Zealand Falcon was seen in the Rata forest. As they made their way back along the south coast of the island, spectacular backwards waterfalls were seen on the high basalt cliffs. A dead sea lion, was seen (another and several dead sea lion pups were on the beach at Sandy Bay) and a good sighting was made of a New Zealand Fur Seal.
By mid-afternoon everyone was back on the ship and the Sea Shop opened at 3:30 p.m. providing an opportunity to indulge in some retail therapy. At 4 p.m. the anchor was lifted and we began our journey towards the Snares Islands.
At 5 p.m. Dan gave an excellent lecture titled Birds of a Feather. The lecture was introduced with the composition of feathers and how they have “little flesh”, with most of the muscle on the breast bone. There are different shapes for different functions and the outer feathers take the force of flight. Moulting was also mentioned, with some birds even moulting twice.
We learned that birds migrate, are efficient feeders for foraging, hunting and some species have excellent vision. Many birds are also camouflaged with pigmentation and colouring an important aspect. Dan made reference to a number of fossil birds which with evolution of the wing and birds learning to fly from the ground upwards.
Using excellent diagrams, we learned that there is a thermal differential between the upper and under-side of the wing that creates vortices providing lift. A further interesting aspect focused on how some birds such as Godwits that make long flights from the northern hemisphere to New Zealand, have the ability to shut down half of the brain and can fly 11,000kms while sleeping. Frigate birds also use weather systems that enable them to reach as much as 4000m above sea level.
At 6 p.m. the bar opened and we enjoyed an excellent dinner at 7 p.m. This evening the sea was a little rough and we hope to have a good rest. Wind has eased and a few Bullers Albatross were sighted off the bow. Depending on the wind and swell we should reach the Snares about 8 a.m.
© R. Iveson-Brown © R. Iveson-Brown © D. Brown © D. Brown
Day 7: Thursday 10 January
Noon position: 47o 35.493’S 166o53.246’E
Air temperature: 13 oC Water: 12oC
Chris’s birthday celebrated in grand style.
After a comfortable night by 7 a.m. The Snares was clearly visible and thousands of birds were flying about the ship. These consisted mainly of Cape (Pintado) Petrels as the Shearwaters (Titi or mutton birds) had by now left very early for their day of fishing.
By 8a.m. as the sun was lighting up the islands, most of us ventured on deck to enjoy the wonderful bird life and the islands which are quite unlike anything we have seen over the last few days. Other birds seen, included Diving petrels, White-capped, Salvins and Buller’s Albatrosses, the last two breeding on The Snares with Salvin’s Albatrosses confined to Broughton Island.
Following a beautiful sunrise, the morning was pristine and a great way to end our visit to the Forgotten Islands”. By 8 a.m. we were slowly approaching Mollymawk Bay on North East Island, the largest of The Snares Group and a good wind was blowing.
The Snares Islands formed of granitic rock, have a highest point of 152m, cover 328 hectares, a mean annual temperature of 11oC and an average rainfall of 1200mm per year. The position of the island group is listed as 48o01’S and 166o35’E. The islands were discovered independently on 23 November 1791 by Capt. George Vancouver HMS Discovery and by Lieut. William Broughton HMS Chatham, both of the Vancouver Expedition. The subsequent sealing era decimated the population and a small group of 3-4 convicts here for seven years, lived in five huts, grew potatoes and were rescued in 1818.
The pest-free island requires a permit to land and is of great interest to science parties from the Universities of Canterbury and Otago, along with the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Only 10 people a year are allowed to land and this includes members of two families who take rock lobster (crayfish).
Unfortunately deteriorating westerly sea conditions meant that we were unable to do a Zodiac cruise. However, cruising close off-shore, we enjoyed excellent views of the rocks, some with nice colouration, the zoning of vegetation adapted to salt-laden air with, Olearia lyalli, the tall ‘tree-daisy’ prominent, and with canopy resembling the heads of cauliflowers. Also seen was Brachyglotis. Other plants included Cook’s ‘scurvy grass’; a mega herb (the term was introduced by Lyall on James Clark Ross’s expedition 1842); a shore Veronica with small white flower and large Poa or tussock grass, this mostly on higher areas. Jessie in a bridge commentary mentioned that there is only 21 species of plants on the islands.
The many birds seen included the occasional Snares Crested Penguins (Eudyptes robustus) of which there are 25-28,000, Buller Albatrosses were nesting on grassy ledges on cliff faces, Giant petrels, and the Brown Skua. Species not seen include the small black endemic Snares Tomtit and the small brown Snares Islands Snipe. The Sooty Shearwaters, a burrowing petrel which had mostly left before dawn, live on the higher areas of the main island and the most prominent bird species, with a calculated 2.7 million pairs (1971).
Lisle mentioned that The Snares is the only island without a cormorant and that there is an abnormally high number of endemic species and that it has been suggested, there are more birds breeding on The Snares than in the entire British Isles.
We were able to have a good view of Ho Ho Bay on North East Island, and could see the resting areas for the Snares Crested Penguins and many were seen in the water. We were grateful that the Captain was able to take us close to the coast, enabling us to see the many hundreds of Snares Crested Penguins commuting on the famous “penguin slide”. As Lisle pointed out, why would anyone, want to expend so much energy commuting with food for young, the long distance up the rock face to their home in the Olearia, and back down when going to sea.
By 9.30 a.m. we had left The Snares and were now on the final leg of our expedition with a return to Bluff. David gave his second lecture at 10.30 a.m. This was titled Lost in the Mists and focused on the explorer Mawson’s second Antarctic expedition, when the first field station was on Macquarie Island, where extensive taking of seals and later penguins for oil occurred.
As mentioned previously, Macquarie was discovered by Captain Frederick Hasselburgh before he found Campbell Island. In 1911 a radio station was established and from this, the first communication was made with Australia and Mawson’s main base in Antarctica. The station was important for the transmitting of weather reports.
It is not generally known that during this expedition in 1911-14, Mawson arranged for his ship Aurora under Captain John King Davis, to undertake two sub-Antarctic winter cruises when dredging was undertaken at New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. One person who accompanied the ship was Edgar Waite, a fish specialist and Director of Canterbury Museum.
The morning passed quickly and the ship occasionally rolled. Most of us used the morning to spend time on the decks or the bridge and to rest or make preparations for our arrival at Bluff early tomorrow. By noon the wind was blowing at 34 knots, spray was occasionally sweeping over the bridge windows and we had a confused sea with whitecaps and the ship rolling from time to time. There were still numerous birds with us and these were mostly Cape Petrels and a few albatross.
As we neared our next destination away to the east was the North Traps and the South Traps, rocks with a height of 0.5m high noted on the chart and a danger to shipping, while ahead of us, Stewart Island steadily increased in size.
Following lunch when we enjoyed superb puff pastry pies with steak, chips and salad, we had time for ourselves but soon were called by Lisle up to the bridge to enjoy the beautiful vista of Stewart Island as we entered Port Pegasus. The sea was flecked white and looked as if it was dusted with snow, this was because of the strong nor-west which at times was gusting up to 75 knots.
From out vantage point on the bridge, we could see Gog (407m) and Magog and further along the Tin Range with its highest point, Mt. Allen (749m). The coastline was most spectacular with dark green scrub and forest and patches of bare rock. We agreed that this had potential to be a most interesting place to explore, as Stewart Island has a long and interesting history of human habitation.
At 4p.m. Dan contributed to our knowledge of expedition cruising with his Heritage Expeditions presentation 70o South to 70o North. This excellent programme explored a range of options available to those who wish to learn more about special places on Earth.
Dan began with covering the Ross Sea region and the wonderful vast landscapes, the wildlife and human history spanning more than a century. Many of the exploits by the great explorers have inspired and changed the lives of thousands of people in a region which he said is “incredibly special”.
From the Southern Ocean, we briefly returned to the Subantarctic Islands before travelling north through Melanesia. Discovering Melanesia has many highlights. These include the extraordinary people, wonderful birds and even a fruit bat that had not been seen for the last 100 years, until it was then rediscovered during a Heritage Expeditions journey. There is so much interesting wildlife, including giant rats, butterflies, dragonflies and by way of snorkeling, experience an exceptional underwater marine world.
Continuing north to the Kuril and Commander Islands there are superb volcanic landscapes and superb flora and mammals such as foxes, while in Kamchatka, brown bears has the largest concentration here. One can also see Sea Otters, Stellar Sea Lions and the great Steller’s Sea Eagle also Humpback Whales, experience wonderful human history and have the opportunity to cross the Arctic Circle.
Moving further north from Russia’s Far East, is the beautiful Arctic environment of Wrangel Island, with large numbers of healthy Polar Bears and in the northern summer and an outstanding and varied flora and bird life. Here there is a chance to traverse the island or do a circumnavigation.
With Heritage Expeditions now chartering the impressive I/B Kapitan Khlebnikov, there is an opportunity to visit localities previously not possible by the current smaller vessels and will have up to 11 highly experienced and knowledgeable expedition staff. We will almost certainly look forward to learning more about these great expeditions and what they have to offer.
After a brief spell we returned to the lecture room for a recap on our expedition. Lisle introduced the staff who expressed gratitude to the guests and the pleasure of being with them on the expedition. Nathan then spoke and said “conservation will be guaranteed by a new generation of people. The islands and the wildlife need our help.” He then urged us to “share our passion and knowledge gained over the last seven days.”
With a screening of the expedition slide show and a few instructions for the morning, this marked the closure to a wonderful week. Many of us then descended on the Bar/Library for a convivial hour before the final dinner just outside The Neck. Our chefs certainly did us proud with superb dishes of lamb and baked salmon. After singing Happy Birthday to Chris and having his cake for desert, we enjoyed a cheese board, crackers and coffee.
Right through our traverse of the Southern Ocean which at times was far from easy in the galley, our Chefs performed admirably. The staff also did their best to make life easy for them when seas were very rough and we enjoyed a very calm sea this evening
We had our final farewells and retired for a good rest.
© D. Brown
Day 8: Friday 11 January
Port of Bluff
About 3:30 a.m. the anchor was lifted and we started out to cross a calm Foveaux Strait. The Pilot boarded at 6 a.m. there was a beautiful sun rise and breakfast was at 6:45 a.m. By 7:30 a.m. we were ready to depart from the Spirit of Enderby for our homes far and wide.
Meanwhile the compiler of this log would like to thank all who have contributed with information and for your company, and wishes the two scholars all the very best in their careers. It is hoped that this record of our expedition will be of interest to all and provide a useful record of an excellent expedition.